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Impact measurement 'should enhance mission, not raise funds or generate PR'

By David Ainsworth, Third Sector Online, 16 January 2013

David Robinson

David Robinson

David Robinson of Community Links tells impact leadership conference run by the Charity Finance Group that the issue is all about leadership

Charities should carry out impact measurement in order to further their missions rather than to attract funders or generate good PR, delegates at the Charity Finance Group impact leadership conference heard this morning.

David Robinson, chief executive of Community Links, a London-based charity for disadvantaged people, told the conference in London that a charity’s mission should be the "Pole Star" for all decision-making.

He said a focus on mission would make finding funding and gaining a good reputation much easier. And he said impact measurement was a vital tool because it allowed charities to see whether they were fulfilling their missions.

"Impact measurement is important, but why is it important?" Robinson asked. "Is it because funders are moving towards payment by results? Is it because you want to get market share? Or is it because we need to do things better?

"Impact measurement is above all about mission. It’s about leadership.

"But it isn’t just a chief executive’s concern. It should be shaping performance, decision-making and everyday behaviour. And if you don’t feel like that, it’s not because I’m wrong, but because we aren’t doing it as well as we should."

Robinson said many charities made "exaggerated claims" about their impact on their websites in order to improve their market share, but this was self-defeating.

"It would be better to say nothing at all than make claims we can’t substantiate," he said.

But he warned that demands from funders for good impact measurement would become more frequent, and that payment by results was likely to remain part of the charity landscape.

"The genie is out of the bottle," he said. "Funders can now pay in advance for uncertain results or pay afterwards for only what worked. I don’t think they’re going to go back to doing it the old way."

And despite the focus on impact measurement, he said, charities should not shy away from doing things that were difficult to measure.

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